Sleep Deprivation – How Lack Of Sleep Can Impact Your Health?

Woman Sleeping in her Bed

Spending hours tossing and turning in bed is a clear indication that you will be cranky and tired the next day. However, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are more harmful than just making you feel grumpy.

Not getting the recommended six to eight hours of sleep every night reduces your mental abilities and increases your risk of certain disorders.

Health Issues Caused by Sleep Deprivation

The importance of sleep for health can’t be denied as it helps your body to recover from the pressures and stress you experience throughout the day. The short term health issues caused by insufficient sleep include:

  • Reduced Alertness – Research has shown that missing even 1.5 hours of sleep can have a major impact on your cognition.
  • Memory Issues – without proper sleep, your capability of remembering and processing information gets affected.
  • Relationship Stress – insufficient sleep makes you moody, which may lead to conflicts with other people.
  • Increased Risk of Accidents – without getting proper rest, you will feel drowsy the next day. Sleepiness and reduced alertness can result in injuries and accidents.

Prolonged sleep deprivation might cause long-term and severe health issues. Following are some potential issues linked with chronic sleep deprivation:

Heart Issues

People experiencing a sleep disorder are at higher risk of developing hypertension, irregular heartbeats, stroke, and coronary heart diseaseResearch shows a connection between heart diseases and sleep apnea.

In sleep apnea, an individual has shallow breaths or pauses during breathing while they sleep. As a result, they tend to walk up multiple times during their sleep. Typically, it is recommended for sleep disorder patients to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device or an apnea monitor.

High Blood Pressure

During quality sleep, the level of blood pressure reduces and your stress levels also stabilize. Not getting proper sleep at night means your blood pressure remains high for a prolonged duration. This is particularly more severe for individuals already suffering from hypertension.

Individuals with high blood pressure may experience worsened symptoms if they don’t get at least five hours of sleep. Research shows that only a single night of sleeplessness or poor-quality sleep in individuals with hypertension can increase their blood pressure level the next day.

Type 2 Diabetes

Studies have found that sufficient sleep might help in improving blood sugar control. Moreover, insufficient sleep has been linked with type 2 diabetes as it influences how your body process glucose. Not getting the recommended hours of sleep increases the risk of diabetes. Research has shown that improved quality of sleep can give you better control over your diabetes.

Metabolic Changes and Obesity

Insufficient sleep has also been found to be linked with metabolic changes and unhealthy weight gain, particularly in adolescents and children, as they need more hours of sleep in comparison to the adults. According to the CDC, lack of sleep has an impact on a certain part of the brain that is responsible for controlling hunger. Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause drastic metabolic changes that can eventually lead to obesity.

The human bodies produce hormones during sleep that helps in regulating glucose processing, metabolism, and appetite. Sleeplessness reduces the levels of hormone leptin produced, which sends signals to the brain when the body has had sufficient food. As a result, you end up eating more or experiencing more cravings for sweet or savory snacks.

Mood Disorders

Just a single night of sleep deprivation results in increased irritability and mood swings the next day, which means continuous sleepless nights can cause long-term mood disorders.

study found that sleep deprivation results in increased anger. It has also been linked to mental distress, anxiety and depression. Individuals who slept for four to five hours every day reported experiencing more mental exhaustion, sadness, stress, and anger. Individuals sleeping for less than four hours every day noticed a declined level of sociability and optimism.

Reduced Sex Drive

Sleep specialists have found that sleep-deprived individuals experience reduced interest in sex, which is reportedly due to sleepiness, depleted energy, and increased tension.

Men suffering from sleep apnea might have another reason for the reduced sex drive. According to a study, men with sleep apnea have a reduced level of testosterone. Half of the participants suffering from serious sleep apnea secreted a drastically low amount of testosterone at night.

Increased Depression

Lack of sleep and depression has been linked by numerous research and studies. Studies have shown that individuals who slept less than five hours experienced reduced optimism levels and increased mental exhaustion. A study found that depression symptoms may reduce once the individuals’ sleep was restored.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder and has been strongly linked to depression. A study found that individuals who have insomnia had a 5% more chance of developing depression in comparison to individuals without insomnia. Insomnia is typically considered one of the initial symptoms of depression.

Aside from these health issues, chronic sleep problems can also have an impact on your skin. It has been found to result in dark circles and premature wrinkling. It also enhances the stress hormone in the body, cortisol, which is responsible for breaking down collagen that keeps the skin smooth.  

Sleep isn’t a luxury. It is crucial for overall health. It is during sleep the body starts to repair itself. This emphasizes the importance of sleep for health and smooth functioning throughout the day. Aside

How Many Hours of Sleep Is Needed?

While the recommended hours of sleep for everyone is between six to eight hours, the National Sleep Foundation have created an updated sleep recommendation tailored for different age groups. The foundation researched for two years and categorized the hours of sleep for a range of ages, which are as follows:

  • Sleep range for 0 to 3 months old newborns is between 14 to 17 hours
  • Sleep range for 4 to 11 months infants is between 12 to 15 hours
  • Sleep range for 1 to 2 years old toddlers is between 11 to 14 hours
  • Sleep range for 3 to 5 years old preschool children is between 10 to 13 hours
  • Sleep range for 6 to 13 years old school going children is between 9 to 11 hours
  • Sleep range for 14 to 17 years old teenagers is between 8 to 10 hours
  • Sleep range for 18 to 25 years old young adults is between 7 to 9 hours
  • Sleep range for 26 to 64 years old adults is between 7 to 9 hours
  • Sleep range for 65+ years old senior adults is between 7 to 8 hours

There is also evidence that environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors can also help in determining the required amount of sleep every individual need for optimal performance and increased health every day. However, getting a minimum of seven hours sleep is crucial to improve your overall health.

9 Ways to Prevent Sleep Deprivation

It is essential to get sufficient amount of sleep every night as per the recommended hours for your age in order to avoid these health issues. Here are some effective tips that can help you in avoiding sleep deprivation and following a healthy sleeping routine:

  • Avoid or limit your naps during the day.
  • Refrain from consuming coffee or caffeine products past noon.
  • Go to bed every night at the same time.
  • Wake up in the morning at the same time.
  • Stick to your bedtime routine even on holidays and weekends.
  • Avoid using your cell phone, tablet, or laptop an hour before you want to sleep.
  • Spend the hour before you sleep doing activities that relax you, including meditating, reading, writing, journaling, or more.
  • Don’t consume a heavy meal at least two hours before you have to sleep.
  • Regularly exercise, but avoid it in the evening before your bedtime.

Everyone understands how lack of sleep can affect their performance and mood the next day. Almost all individuals have experienced reduced focus, mood swings, and fatigue at a certain point in their life following a sleepless night.

However, many still don’t take measures to improve their sleep patterns and quality of sleep. Moreover, people are still unaware of the long-term health problems that can occur due to chronic sleep deprivation. Research has also shown that sleeping for long hours, more than nine, has also been linked to poor health.

It is essential to review your sleep behaviors to enhance the quality of your sleep. If you aren’t able to improve your sleep quality and reduce sleep issues, you might be experiencing a sleep disorder. Fortunately, sleep disorders are treatable but you must consult a doctor to determine the cause and to create a right treatment plan.    

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